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Volunteering at the centre


Lyn said, “I started socialising, but didn’t become involved in the Lesbian and Gay Community Centre management until 1985. By 1980, the original Gay Centre in Digbeth had closed, being faced with huge repair costs they’d decided not to renew the lease, and were in the wilderness for four years trying to find premises. When I joined they had moved to new premises in 291 Corporation St opposite Aston University, and I was involved from that point onwards with the committee. I’d got involved with the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard the previous year (1984), but prior to that the main involvement was the Gay Society at Wolverhampton Poly. It faced some hostility, a number of groups weren’t very keen on us, e.g. the rugby club was notoriously homophobic but we were one of the high profile societies, though small in number, and effectively campaigned with the Union’s support though not enthusiasm. There were power struggles between people related to the Rugby Club and minority groups over use of funds and political control of the Union. It was good fun, the Gay Society met weekly and organised a range of film showings, discos and other events. We had a gay liberation disco every year which was always brilliant though hardly attended, but our principal fund-raiser was a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show which we did twice a year. That raised hundreds of pounds which enabled us to hire films which weren’t on general release; dramas, short films e.g. ‘A Comedy in six unnatural acts’ which was mainly lesbian, taking the piss out of gay politics; ‘Witches, dykes, poofters and faggots’, a story of the Sydney Mardi Gras from the days when there were riot police sent in to break it up, quite different from the vast event it is now.”

“When the Lesbian and Gay Community Centre reopened in 1985 its main focus was to provide an alternative social space free from the pressures of the commercial gay scene, where alcohol wouldn’t be a major focus, where people could feel safe from sexual predators, where people could come out in a social environment and a supportive space. The heart of the centre was the coffee bar and Saturday was its busiest day. It was essentially a drop in place with cheap coffee and cheap food, and also housed an extensive library of lesbian and gay novels and publications and organised a range of social evenings, video evenings, and provided a space for use by a range of community groups, possibly the most successful was the Youth Group. It was a resource, a building which could be used for a variety of functions. It was open Wednesdays, Friday nights, Saturday and Sundays. It was quite a large building, that comprised a large coffee bar, large lounge, smaller meeting rooms, that doubled as a library and further large space to be used for concerts or theatre, but otherwise had a table tennis table. In the previous Gay Centre, the Drama Group was a major group involved in producing their own material and inviting other gay theatre groups in. Initially the Centre was self-funded, when we first moved we’d been fund-raising ever since the old premises closed, in conjunction with Friend, Lesbian Line and West Midlands Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. The Centre used to organise events at The , and Saturday discos, which was for many years the main disco in the centre of Birmingham. Over five years we had built up a fair amount of money, enough for the deposit and conversion.”

Contributed by: Lyn David Thomas, 47

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